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Book Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

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The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole (A Taste of Texas Mystery #2)The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve completed reading all three cozy mysteries in the ‘A Taste of Texas Mystery’ series by Rebecca Adler with this one: The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole. Josie Callahan is a part-time reporter at the local small-town paper and a part-time waitress at her family’s TexMex restaurant. In between, she solves murders despite trying to ignore them.

In this caper, her bestie, Patti, has been accused of killing her ex-boyfriend, mega musician who’s come back to town to play in a local concert hall. Did Patti do it? Doubtful, but the police have arrested her. What jerks, right? So… Josie and her Chihuahua, Lenny, along with the rest of the Martinez family, try to find the real killer. A band-mate? A jealous girlfriend? An agent? Someone from the outside? Who did it?

I’m giving this one 3.5 stars. Of the three in the series, it’s the one I like the most. I have the same concern with this book as I do the whole series. There’s something slightly off in the interaction and dialogue between all the characters. I feel like the author knows what she’s saying in her head, but a line or two is left out. Sometimes I’m not sure who’s speaking; other times, a random narrative appears that I can’t quite figure out the connection to the rest of the happenings. All-in-all, it’s not enough to stop me from reading the series, but I find myself puzzled enough to pause and re-read. When that happens, I know there could be a stronger focus on the overall flow and tone in the book.

That said… there are major positives. It’s full of clear suspects with definite motives. I like the setting and backdrop. Josie is a good sleuth. I like the budding relationship with Lightfoot or maybe Ryan. I enjoy the family restaurant dynamics. And the mysteries are always complex. I look forward to reading the next one.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Dust by Patricia Cornwell

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Dust (Kay Scarpetta, #21)Dust by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Dust by Patricia Cornwell is the twenty-first book in the Kay Scarpetta series consisting of about twenty-five (and still counting) novels in the medical and FBI thriller mystery sub-genre. I began reading the novels nearly two decades ago but stopped for a while when I ventured into other genres. I recently picked them up again and want to get current before the next one releases in late 2019 (from what I can tell thus far). They focus on a medical examiner who’s worked for the states of Virginia and Massachusetts but now runs an even larger firm where she employs security, investigative and technical staff. Her husband, Benton, is an FBI profiler. Her niece, Lucy, is a tech whiz. And her best friend, Marino, is now a cop again. All in all, I don’t particular like any of them as people; however, as characters they’re strong, complex, and challenging… hence why I keep reading these books.

In Dust, the body of a young tech whiz who was suing a company for losing some of her money, is found dead on campus. A weird dust covers parts of her body and she’s wearing underwear that don’t belong to her. Scarpetta realizes the girl has ties to a serial killer several states away, but she shouldn’t know this because Benton let a few things slip about his case. Unfortunately, his boss is out to get him, which makes the case and any next steps quite difficult. Benton comes home for a surprise weekend and helps Kay connect the dots on the cases, which leads to an all-out investigation. What is Benton’s boss hiding? How is a dead person’s DNA still showing up on new murder victims? What does this have to do with a case Kay oversaw years ago where she thought the victim was murdered but her deputy filed it as a suicide? And how connected is Lucy to this new victim since they were both working on the same tech inventions? Phone records show many people were connected in secret.

Overall, the plot is intense and complex. It’s the best part of the book. The story unfolds with a great deal of medical and technical details; some is over the top, but much of it is easy to follow. The conclusion has a nice surprise twist and made the book feel quite strong. That said, I had a few concerns which I can’t help but wonder how they slipped through in the final editing process. The reason the first victim was killed is still unclear. Unless that’s the plot of a future story, that’s a problem for me. The who/what/when/where/how of why the killer is connected to someone else in the story isn’t explored enough. It’s just dropped as a suspenseful cliffhanger mid-book, then shares a one-page explanation near the end where we’re supposed to connect the dots on our own of how it all began. It needed more development in those areas to tie things together more closely.

There were a few other incidents like this which prevent me from giving it a 5-star rating. I end up with 3.5 star rounded higher on the book sites, but I really hope the next one is cleaner. I’m ordering it this week and will buddy read with my friend, Medhat, in the near future.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

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Much Ado About Muffin (Merry Muffin Mystery, #4)Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Autumn Vale in upstate New York is the place [not] to be. I say that only because it seems you’ll be murdered if you visit too often. In Much Ado About Muffin, the fourth book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, Minnie, the post office supervisor, is killed! We surely didn’t like her in the first few books because she was mean to Merry. ‘She deserved to die’ some might say, but there was the briefest moment in the beginning of this book where she was somewhat kind. Rest assured, then she was back at the nastiness, so we don’t feel all that guilty, right?

Hamilton’s created a wonderful town full of lovable characters. I am getting more and more connected to this cast of kooky inhabitants. Some are just plain old weird. Others are insufferable. Many are adorable. But no one will be spared, I suspect, except perhaps Merry. When she’s away visiting her late husband’s brother, the town is running amok. That is, its citizens are. Merry gets a marriage proposal while in Europe. Will she take it? Upon her return, Roma, a diva with a waning voice, is trying to recover in Merry’s castle simply until she can go back onstage in NYC. Unfortunately, Roma’s pissed off a lot of people, including Minnie. Did she then kill Minnie in revenge? Or is it one of her boarders who don’t seem to like Minnie other than she’s agreed to leave them her house if she dies. Then she dies! Ah, who would of guessed?

Hamilton’s writing continues to please. Her style and tone are always great. This is a wonderful series and I will keep reading the books. I’ve held back the full 5 stars because I think she’s capable of more. Merry has lots of connections about town. Build up the families. Add in some additional friends. Give her a stronger job. Make her truly ready to takeover the town. Then I’ll be so enamored with this series, I will re-read it many times!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Here Today, Gone Tamale by Rebecca Adler

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Here Today, Gone Tamale (A Taste of Texas Mystery #1)Here Today, Gone Tamale by Rebecca Adler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On my quest to catch up on any book series I’ve enjoyed in the past, today I began reading the ‘A Taste of Texas Mystery’ series by Rebecca Adler. I’d won an ARC of the third book in the series last year and wrote a review upon completion. I liked the series and started from the beginning this week with Here Today, Gone Tamale.

Josie, a late 20s young woman in Texas, is not Latina. Her mother’s sister married someone of Latino descent. They run a TexMex restaurant with the husband’s mother, known as Abuelita. While she’s not really Josie’s grandmother, something must have happened with Josie’s parents in the past (we don’t know yet) for her to feel like the aunt and uncle are her closest family. After a failed engagement and termination from her job as a reporter at a paper in a bigger city, Josie returns home to wait tables at her family’s restaurant and find a part-time job on the local paper. The restaurant is hosting a charity tamale event where one of the townspeople, Dixie, is found dead out back by the dumpster. Was it the mayor or his wife who argued with Dixie? A former friend or her daughters who are selling Dixie’s jewelry? A waiter who didn’t like that Dixie tried to kiss him? A nephew looking for an inheritance? Or someone in Josie’s family with a past secret?

Adler delivers a fun mystery in a unique setting for me. I like the TexMex backdrop and the non-traditional (for a cozy) environment and ethnicity of the supporting cast. There’s a layer of flavor and culture which is endearing and comforting. The mystery has a few red herrings and some good clues, and we worry about Josie — she’s flirting with her ex-bf who is now dating the town beauty queen winner, and her dog has been kidnapped when Josie starts investigating the murder. I felt the same about this debut as I did the third book in the series: it’s good and has potential, but it was missing a little something to stand out quite yet for me. I’ll still keep reading the series as I like it, but I hope the setting is more connective and clear in the future. All the characters are interesting and good, but I’m not attached to anyone yet. It might be the kind of series where you fall into it after 3 or 4 books. I’ll order the second one next month and see if I’m fully baked in like the tamales are in this edition!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

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Daughter of Moloka'i: A NovelDaughter of Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Around ten years ago, someone in my book club selected Moloka’i as our monthly read. I wasn’t sure I’d like the book as I knew very little about Hawaii or leprosy, but it was a chance to learn. By the end of the novel, I was in tears and had scheduled a trip to visit the islands. It was a major hit at our book club meeting and I fondly recalled the book for several years. Last month, I was searching NetGalley to see what was newly released when this book showed in my queue. WHAT, A SEQUEL? I quickly requested it, waited days to find out if I’d be granted the approval, and messaged my former book club members to tell them about it. When I was awarded the book, I moved it up the queue and read it this week. This novel was truly a wonderful read and lived up to the first book; it’s a high recommendation from me.

The sequel starts in the 1920s at an orphanage where Ruth, a young girl, has been dropped off by her parents, for adoption. While she didn’t have leprosy, Ruth’s parents did which meant they couldn’t raise her for fear of further spreading the disease. Ruth waited years to be adopted because she’s half-Japanese and half-Hawaiin; few potential adopters were interested in taking her with them after a visitation. All Ruth wants is her own pet — a cow, a dog, anything… but the orphanage can’t allow it. One day, a Japanese couple arrive and adopt her. Ruth finds a wonderful home and everything she deserves falls into place — for a few years. Her adoptive father’s brother asks them to move from Hawaii to California to help farm his land. They do, but they find resistance to Japanese by Americans. By the time Pearl Harbor occurred, life for anyone of Japanese descent in mainland America was impacted. Ruth and her entire family, including new husband, Frank, and their two kids, were placed in various relocation camps across the Western US. Pain, death, and regret follow the family for a few years.

As a reader, I came to tears several times, but they also have wonderful moments and relationships that deliver a strong balance in emotional terms. About 2/3 into the book, Ruth receives a letter from her biological mother explaining why she was given up for adoption. Should Ruth meet the woman? Who is she and what is her connection to the characters from the first book in the series? Author Alan Brennert delivers a powerhouse of emotions and history in this sequel which I feel is definitely a parallel match. Not only do we learn about the culture of Hawaii but about Japan in this second installment. To understand what happened to Japanese-Americans in the 30s and 40s was difficult and crushing. It was equally as crushing as the deaths at Pearl Harbor and in WW2 as a result of all the fighting, but the focus here was on those around Ruth and her family.

The book ultimately chronicles Ruth’s life from age 3 to 55 when she’s grown with her own kids who are beginning to think about marriage in the late 1960s after the Korean War efforts. We walk step-by-step with her as she loses family members, gains new ones, finds her connection to animals in a second life, and understands who she really is. The language in this book, whether it’s Hawaiin, Japanese, or American English, is inspiring. It shows the flavor of the world Ruth lived in, both good and bad. At times, I laughed. Others, I teared up. To see a 50-thousand foot version of someone’s life throughout the middle of the 20th century during many horrific wars is quite impacting. We learn of a few different things that happened during the first book that we didn’t know then, but from a different perspective. We re-visit a few of those scenes again just to make connections. It’s quite comforting and eye-opening to learn things that we hadn’t know happened to Ruth’s family before she was born.

I can’t say enough good things about this sequel… perhaps in a few parts it was a tad slow and repetitive, but that’s so minor, it didn’t bother me. I still give this book a full 5 stars.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Academic Curveball – Won the 2018 Critters Award

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Academic Curveball was nominated for a 2018 Critters award in the ‘Other Novels’ category. There were ~15 different categories and hundreds of submissions. Voting was held over the last few weeks…

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I’m grateful for the nomination and the support… especially since it led to my book winning this year’s award for Best Other Novel! I am so excited that the first book in my Braxton Campus Mysteries series won. You can see current standings here.

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Thank you to everyone who voted!!!

Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

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The Howling Cliffs (Sara Mason Mysteries Book 2)The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Deal has become one of those authors whose books always deliver strong story, memorable characters, and beautiful narrative that’s easy to read and highly engaging. The Howling Cliffs, the second book in her ‘Sara Mason Mysteries’ series is the sixth book I’ve read in the last two years from her growing list of works. Between the title and the cover, it’s no wonder I loved the book, but I’ve also been reading several books with tropical locations such as Hawaii in the last few weeks. I’ve apparently got a theme going…

Sara has had a hard life, but she is a survivor and will never back away from a challenge. Months after solving a major crime involving a serial killer in the last book, she heads back to Vietnam to search for MIA heroes for two close friends: Esmerelda, a widow whose husband was murdered in the first book, and Huxley, Sara’s potential future husband soon. Esmerelda’s daughter never returned from her medical mission. Huxley’s brother, a strong leader of his group, also disappeared. Both are surely gone, killed in action during the awful Vietnam War from decades earlier. After finding a few scattered remains, the crew heads back to California (and other places) to see if they can find a DNA match. Sara returns to Hawaii where she’s renovating a house for travelers to stay when going back and forth on missions to Vietnam. She’s also visiting old and new friends and recuperating from a tough few years. Only it’s gonna get worse.

Some neighbors welcome her. Some do not. She’s an outsider, a haole, not of Hawaii’n birth. But it’s one neighbor, an angry and distant young man who lost his sister to a predator ~12 years ago when she was a child, whom attracts Sara’s focus. She wants to solve the cold case, and in doing so, digs up several secrets and lots of dirt somebody wants to remain buried. Through a series of near-death experiences, Sara explores her neighboring town’s beautiful landscape, researches and investigates the case, and tries to understand what makes the weird noise coming from the nearby cliffs. The Howling Cliffs is part-mystery, part-chronicle of life suspense. We follow Sara through several key changes in her life as she decides what she wants to do next. She’s a strong female lead with solid intuition and a zest for helping others. Admirable on many levels, she’s also forgetful about protecting herself. We see her deal with a little bit of pain and remorse, but also her desire (and need) to find new friends, like her neighbor who helps in the search for the child killer from twelve years earlier.

Deal’s novels handle complex, emotional experiences and tragedies while keeping a tight grip on the plot. We easily bounce from the main mystery to all the sub-plots that weave throughout the book, knowing it will come together, and thirsting for what’s the surprise waiting for us in the end. The author’s own life experience and knowledge of various remote parts of the world make the dialog, setting, and descriptions not only real but vivid and lively. You believe you’re trapped in a jungle with snakes and danger. You think the mudslide has trapped you in its grip. You enjoy the entire ride and feel satisfied with the ending. I’m really excited that she’s writing a third book in this series, which will have a takeoff from a plot in this book. I love when an author keeps those connections, and I’ll be the first in line to get a copy when it’s released. Thanks for another winner, Mary Deal.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.